Introducing Nightcaps: mini-posts from Bottom Feeder dives 

It’s no secret that we go to dive bars more often than normally-functioning members of society. And every once in a while, we find a dive but we can’t put together (or remember) enough for a full blown bottom feeder review. But we don’t want to keep all that divey goodness to ourselves! In the spirit of spreading the good news of inebriation to our fellow divers, we introduce Nightcaps: shorter expositions on the lives and times of the bottom feeders, coming soon from a dive near you.

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Bob and Barbara’s Lounge

1509 South St., Philadelphia, PA 19146
Hours: 3 PM – 2 AM Daily

Even if you’ve never been to B&B’s before, it becomes pretty clear what you should be drinking as soon as you walk in. Welcome to Bob and Barbara’s Lounge: the Holy See of the Church of PBR.

Bob and Barb’s takes their PBR seriously. They have a ridiculous number of PBR signs and lights. It’s like they went on CraigsList and bought every PBR-based item in the country and then some. This truly top-notch dive decor – perhaps unmatched by any other dive in Philly or South Jersey – sets the tone for sure. The gentle glow of the incandescent lamps behind the discolored plastic leaves you feeling warm and thirsty inside.

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You can quench your thirst at the big main bar or the smaller back corner bar. They do have some craft beers on tap, but nobody comes here for the craft beer. It’s all about the PBR and Jim Beam. In fact, Bob & Barb’s main claim to fame is that combined the two to create the original citywide special. A beer and a shot here will run you $3 – the best deal in the city.

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The Organ Trio on a Friday night.

B&B’s boasts some great entertainment too. Friday and Saturday nights feature a jazz organ trio that plays almost continuously for hours on end. The music is great, really unique, and it always draws a decent crowd. One of my favorite features is that it’s all instrumental, so there is no distraction if you want to focus on a conversation and a beer.

Overall Bob and Barb’s a simple dive done right. The beer is cold, the specials are cheap, the music is excellent, and the crowd is always great. A weekend night at this South Street dive pretty much can’t go wrong. Show up with $12 in pocket change, and you’ll stumble home happy.

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Ratings:
Food: N/A
Drink: ★★½
Price: $
Overall: ★★★★

Bottom Line
This cash-only Philly dive has been around for nearly half a century. It has a ton of character, and one all-important claim to Philly dive fame: they invented the citywide. Known at B&B’s simply as “the special,” the legendary beer-and-shot special will keep you lubricated all night.

Specials
“The Special” – $3 for a can of PBR and a shot of Jim Beam

Café No Sé

Café No Sé

1 Avenida Sur # 11 “C”, Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala 01001
Hours: 2pm(ish) – 1am daily

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In the beginning of October 2016, I took my yearly surf trip with a couple of friends.  This year, we hit Guatemala and El Salvador.  While we mostly spent our days on the beautiful black sand beaches of these amazing Central America countries, we took a couple days off from surfing to go to the old colonial town of Antigua Guatemala.  Hidden away on one of the quiet cobblestone streets of this little town in the Guatemalan mountains was Café No Sé (“Cafe I Don’t Know”), a tiny bar that specialized in mezcal (tequila’s smokier cousin) and live music.
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Early in the evening, we ate dinner at a restaurant next door to Café No Sé.  As we left, we peeked our heads into the little dive to see what it was all about (we had heard about the place before arriving in Antigua).  The bartender told us to come back at 10pm for live blues music.  That was all we needed to hear.  Suckers for live music that we are, we arrived back at the bar around 10pm.  Looking over the menu, we found such great items as John’s Hangover, which is 1 beer, 1 mezcal, 2 aspirins, and 2 cigarettes for Q45 (roughly $5USD!), a small selection of bar snacks (mostly pizzas and grilled cheese), and even a local craft beer, Ixbalanque. We decided to keep things simple, though.  We each took a couple shots of mezcal, grabbed some bottles of Gallo (Guatemala’s predominant lager) and explored the bar before the music started.  The establishment was mostly lit by candlelight.  The candles looked like something out of Se7en: giant piles of wax that they must have been working on for years, letting each candle melt onto the last. Only partially visible in the dim lighting, and definitely adding to the Se7en vibe, strange art and Guatemalan artifacts lined the crumbling walls.  Amongst all that was also a poster that read, “Donald Eres Un Pendejo” (“Donald [Trump] is an asshair”). There were 3 rooms, each with a bar – the entrance to one being a doorway that was only about 3 feet high.

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The music started, and we were absolutely blown away.  Mercedes Escobar, a local Guatemalan musician, sat on a stool in the corner of the front room, strumming her guitar and singing old blues songs from the 1920s, sipping on mezcal between songs.  Her extraordinary performance made up for the service from the bartender in that room.  An American expat, the girl behind the bar seemingly made up whatever prices she wanted every time we ordered, and asked for tips before transactions were even complete.  She had no interest in answering our questions about drinks, and instead used her time on the clock to flirt with a patron sitting at the bar.  The bitch was hands down the most unpleasant person I encountered on my whole 10-day trip.  Aside from her attitude, though, the atmosphere was great, and from what I could tell, it was the only true dive in Antigua (we went to a lot of bars during our day and a half stay in town).  I will certainly go again next time I find myself in Antigua, just making sure to avoid the American bartender.img_5009

 

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Ratings:
Food: ★★
Drink: ★★★
Price: $$
Overall: ★★★★

Bottom Line:
With outstanding live music, a nice candlelit atmosphere, and such great menu items as John’s Hangover, Café No Sé is certainly worth checking out if you’re in Antigua. Just don’t order your drinks from the white American chick.

The Pacific Inn

The Pacific Inn

3501 Stone Way N Seattle, WA 98103
Hours: 11am – 2am daily

In June of this year, I took my first West Coast trip to visit a good friend of mine, Dan, in Seattle.  We biked around the Fremont neighborhood on a Sunday evening, had a couple beers in Gas Works Park, and then decided it was time for dinner.  He told me he knew just the spot, so we set off down the hill on our bikes.  A few minutes later, the heavenly smell of fried fish hit my nostrils.  “I don’t know where that smell’s coming from, but I hope that’s where you’re taking me.”  Thirty seconds later, we pulled up at the Pacific Inn, locked our bikes up, and walked inside.  The interior of the Pac Inn was pretty plain, but just grimy enough to get the point across: this was a dive bar in the truest sense of the term.  A few beer mirrors and nautical artifacts lined the plain white walls, and cheesy string-up lights traced the perimeter of the dirty gray ceiling.  Cigarettes were even for sale behind the bar.

I didn’t even need to look at a food menu when we sat down at the bar.  The smell of the Pac Inn’s fish and chips was one of the best things I’d ever smelled, so that’s just what I ordered.  While we were waiting for our fish, we sipped on cold pints of Manny’s, a local pale ale.  The fish and chips arrived in front of us a few minutes later, and we were not disappointed.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that these might’ve been the best fish and chips I’ve ever had, and I’ve been to a few good spots.

As we sipped our cold beverages and ate our delicious seafood, we conversed with the bartender.  He was friendly, gave me some recommendations on what to do in town, but also had the kind of cold attitude you’d expect, and hope for, from a bartender at a dive bar.  A few Eastern Europeans came in, and quickly left, surely confused by the dingy look of the place.  I got the feeling I was the only non-local there, and I was okay with that.  I surely wouldn’t have discovered this place without the help of one, and that’s what made my experience at the Pacific Inn even better.  I imagine this is what the whole city of Seattle was like forty years ago before its sports, music, and tech scenes blew up.  It was good to see that an old towny bar like this could still survive in the overly-hip Seattle of today.  Thoroughly satisfied with our dinner, we paid (the Pac Inn DOES accept credit cards), thanked the man, and headed off into the Pacific sunset, full and happy.

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Ratings:
Food: ★★★★
Drink: ★★★★
Price: $
Overall: ★★★★

Bottom Line:

You can’t beat a $7.99 price tag for some of the best fish and chips out there.  Cheap, cold, local beer to boot.  There’s no reason not to go at least once if you find yourself in Seattle.

Specials: N/A

Oaklyn Manor Bar: The Rebirth

Oaklyn Manor Bar: The Rebirth

198 W. Clinton Ave, Oaklyn, NJ 08107
Hours: 10 AM – 1 AM, Mon – Sat; 10 AM – Midnight, Sun

After a long seven months, the Oaklyn Manor Bar has finally taken care of their licensing issues and is once again open for business. On our first trip to the “old” Manor, we fell in love with the wings an the character of the place. But with new owners boasting a slew of upgrades, we figured that it was only appropriate to give it another dive.

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“Weekend forecast: mostly drunk with 100% chance of football”

The first piece of good news was that the new Manor has retained its old bones. Some of the dive decor has been phased out, but the building has retained its character. The overhead chalkboard is an awesome addition – you gotta love the slogan in the photo above, and it seems like they have a resident chalk artist updating the thing. 20160910_192534

We grabbed a booth and checked out the beer list, which now features the full lineup of Tonewood Beers brewed right down the block! Of course you can always go with a classic Yuengling, but the prices have gone up a tick compared to the other local dives. At $4 a Yueng, I’d spend the extra dollar to get the local brew. We got the Tonewood saison and pale ale, and anxiously awaited the new incarnation of the Manor wings. I was nervous since the Manor has a new chef and an all new menu, but pleased to see the “Manor Style” wings still on the menu. And the Manor Style wings definitely lived up to their reputation.

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The spread: garlic parm fries, Tonewood pale ale, “tomato pie”, and Manor Style hot wings.

Bigger than the old wings the new Manor wings are brined, baked, and fried. The chicken is cooked so perfectly that you can crunch down on the bones just to get an extra bite. And the house sauce blend remains irresistible. We meant to order 6 wings to along with our pizza and fries, but forgot to specify. It all worked out though – we housed them.
Continue reading “Oaklyn Manor Bar: The Rebirth”

The Beer Factory

The Beer Factory

113 N. Fairview St., Riverside, NJ 08075
Hours: Early to Late (not exactly sure)

This Independence Day, we headed up Rt. 130 to perform our diving duties in the former resort / former industrial / former everything town of Riverside, NJ. From the street, The Beer Factory looks like a blue barn belonging to the house next door. “Home of the 1-1/4 oz. Shot”, boasts the sign. But it wasn’t until we entered, and let our eyes adjust to the darkness, that we realized how deep we were about to dive.

All eyes turned to us. We were the youngest people in the bar by no less than 30 years, and the soberest by no less than 6 drinks. We took the long walk around the big rectangular bar and took the first available set of three stools, where we were greeted by an easy-going older barmaid. The regulars actually seemed to get a kick out of seeing someone new, and they soon turned back to their good-natured imbibery.

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Probably 12 O’doul’s deep at this point.

The bartender finished serving the guy at the end of the bar an O’doul’s, and everyone else in the bar whiskey or Rolling Rock, then brought over three ice-cold Yuenglings in frosted mugs – just what we needed for relief from the oppressive humidity.

We talked to our bartender a lot – she was probably grateful to see some new faces in there. She was also surprising well-traveled, and, less surprisingly, considering the lighting, absolutely fascinated by caves. We traded a handful of cave-related stories (not kidding): Lava caves in Iceland, Mammoth Cave in Kentucky (which reminds me of another great dive), and the caves in Zion National Park, UT. Seriously, we talked about caves for like 15 minutes.

Sitting there we scoped out the food situation. They definitely sold chips and pretzels, but beyond that it was sort of a mystery. Some patrons were ordering slices of pizza, which the bartender brought out one-at-a-time from the walk-in freezer and toasted in what appeared to be the single cooking device on the premises. Apparently they order pizza once a week and sell it until its all gone. To celebrate the 4th, they also had hot dogs and homemade brownies on the house! Not a bad deal at all!

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Free hot dogs to go with $1.50 Yuenglings!

Before we could order another round, the O’doul’s guy poured a third bottle into his glass since our arrival. We enjoyed another round of beer and conversation and just let the diveyness set it. The Beer Factory, “Home of the 1-1/4 oz. Shot”, as the sign boasts, has that unique divey character that really comes out when the main sources of light are the open doors. Even if it’s just for a round, do yourself a favor and experience the Beer Factory. The decor, the atmosphere, and the people tell a story that is best absorbed with a beer in hand.

Note: there is actually a lot of great divey stuff to check out inside The Beer Factory, but the phone containing most of the photos (and some of the prices and specials) got fried before I could upload them. Go check it out for yourself!

Ratings:
Food: ★★½ (based on free hot dogs and brownies)
Drink: ★★½
Price: $
Overall: ★★½

Bottom Line
This is one of the deepest dives in South Jersey. The Beer Factory helps Riverside live up to its reputation. The Yuengling is cold and the prices haven’t changed in a decade. The Beer Factory is genuine Americana, frozen in time.

Bottom Feeder Updates

It’s been a while divers, and there are some updates to talk about on the South Jersey dive scene! First off, the specials, wing night, and map have all been updated to reflect dive data to the best of our knowledge. The wing night calendar is really starting to fill up despite losing the golden Monday-Wednesday-Friday combo from Kid Rip’s (they got a new menu and promise a new wing special is coming soon:

Nevertheless we can always use more! If you know of any wing nights, at dives or at more well-lit establishments, drop us a line on the suggestions page.

Some sad news on the dive scene – Red Eagle Tavern has permanently closed. Was our review the final nail in the coffin? Probably. R.I.P. Red Eagle.

On the bright side, Oaklyn Manor is coming back soon! They opened for a day in May to do a dry wet run for the Kentucky Derby and their voicemail message currently confirms a grand re-opening in July. Let’s hope it stays deep with the new owners! We’ll break in the new Manor with a review as soon as they’re up and running.